Dear Trinity Grace Church,
We’re picking up our series of pastoral letters during the pandemic.
But First, an Announcement: Multiple Services
Before we get to the letter, we have an announcement. In light of the latest restrictions on our worship, we will be offering multiple services limited to 10 people each beginning this Sunday, May 2.
Our current services will not change. We will offer 1st and 3rd Sunday Morning Communion services, in-person and Zoom, at 9:30 am and 10:30 and Sunday worship, TGKids + in-person and Zoom.
In addition, we will provide a simplified in-person worship at 9:30 am and 12 pm, with no communion.
In summary, beginning this Sunday, every Sunday we will offer worship services at:
9:30 am Morning Communion or Simplified Sunday Service (1st and 3rd Sundays will be Morning Communion with Zoom; every other Sunday will be in-person simplified worship)
10:30 am Sunday Worship (TGKids + in-person + Zoom + communion every 2nd, 4th, 5th Sunday)
12:00 pm Simplified Sunday Worship
We hope we can see as many of you on Sundays in-person, in good conscience, in good health at 826 Eglinton E.
If you plan to worship in-person, please register your household for ONE service, 9:30 am, 10:30 am or 12 pm, by clicking here or clicking on the YouTube video below.
Back to the Pastoral Letter Series
The past two letters asked, “How will we worship God in a worthy manner during the pandemic?” and “How will we love our neighbour during the pandemic?” If you prefer a video version of the letter, click here.
“Am I Grieved during the Pandemic?”
Certainly, the pandemic has caused grief. By “grieve,” we mean “to be sad, to experience loss, to lament.”
People have lost loved ones and livelihood. Entire nations have been brought to their knees by the pandemic. We grieve the loss of “normal.” These are all real sadness. The Christ-follower is human no less and not immune to the everyday life pains the pandemic has inflicted. We pray for comfort and hope to those grieving in some shape and form.
Nevertheless, there is another loss that the Christ-follower uniquely endures during the pandemic. Today, we ask, “Am I grieved that we are not worshipping God in person? Am I grieved that my ministry to my neighbour in-person is hindered?”
To set some context, it has been over a year since our lives and our life as a church, no less, have been disrupted. It is good for our souls to reflect on an appropriate Christian conscience about our body and soul identity as Christ’s Church. As a Christ-follower, our most important and deepest identity should be being God’s child and, therefore, a member of his Church, his body, his family.
Grieving our worship and our ministry especially makes sense when we think through some eschatology.
If you’re not familiar with the term eschatology, for the Christian it refers to the Biblical study of future events and last things.
What’s the Connection between Grieving and Our Eschatology?
It’s simple. We see the connection when we understand a life principle:
Expectations – Reality = Grieving
Whenever our real experience falls short of our hopes and expectations, we feel disappointment and grief.
For the Christ-follower, let’s apply the above principle in the following way:
Kingdom Hopes – Fallen Reality = Grieving
The Christ-follower is to live for God’s coming Kingdom. Put differently, the Christ-follower is meant to live with a robust and clear eschatology! It’s our future hope of Christ’s Kingdom that gives our present-day and past the greatest meaning and purpose.
But when we experience a fallen reality, when we face obstacles to God’s Kingdom–stubborn or antagonistic souls, disease and death, restricted worship–there should be a healthy grieving, like the psalmist in Psalm 42. “Why so downcast O my soul?” But even as we grieve, like the psalmist, we put our hope in God and are sure about his imminent, victorious Kingdom.
The pandemic has forced the issue of Christian grieving because as a church our normal means of physically gathering as redeemed souls to worship God and fellowship as his body feels like it’s been confiscated.
This should grieve us.
If it doesn’t grieve us, if we feel indifferent, that’s a red flag.
Disappointments and grieving are more pronounced when our expectations and hopes are higher and all the more vividly defined. So let’s unpack our Kingdom hope.
What is our Kingdom hope?
Eschatology is a vast topic of study. Let us focus on one particular, beautiful aspect: the new creation.
By “new creation,” we mean that God will restore life and the universe to what they were meant to be and better before the fall. In church history, we have called this our blessed hope, based on Paul’s words in Titus 2:13 and the hope of Christ’s return.
Here are some key characteristics of the new creation, our Kingdom hope.
The New Creation will be a New Heaven and New Earth
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God… 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Notice how Revelation 21:1-5 clearly and beautifully speaks of “a new heaven, and a new earth.” We’re to understand that God is going to renew the entire universe, including earth and our bodies. We’re to understand that we will do life as God meant it to be and better than before the fall.
The New Creation will be a New Government and Society
Notice that there will be a city–the city of God, the new Jerusalem. This new city will be a society with a government, with Jesus Christ as King. Notice how Revelation describes the new creation as “the dwelling place of God is with man” and that “they will be his people.”
We will be very much a gathered people, worshiping God, loving him and one another as he meant it.
The Church of Jesus Christ is, indeed, the New Society
Did you notice in Revelation 21 that the new city, the new society is none other than Jesus Christ’s Church, his beloved Bride?
Aspects of our church life here on earth are meant to be a preview of our blessed hope. For example, this is a part of why communion is precious. Communion is a foretaste of the great wedding feast, the marriage feast of the Lamb. Isaiah 25:6 points to Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, which points to the final marriage supper of the Lamb envisioned in Revelation 19:6-9. Another example is the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25. Our gatherings are meant to excite us “all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We will have Redeemed Bodies and Souls in the New Creation
It’s important to realize that life in eternity will be a redeemed version of life. We will do life with redeemed bodies and souls. There will be a strange familiarity but also an unfathomable newness to our life in the new creation.
Did you ever notice Jesus’ resurrected state? Luke astoundingly records:
39 See my (Jesus’) hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he (Jesus) had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
Did you notice that Jesus describes himself in his resurrected state as having flesh and bones?! AND Jesus EATS broiled fish!
Jesus is the first fruit of the new creation (1 Corinthians 15:20), meaning Jesus’ experience is the template for ours.
The point is that our blessed hope is a redeemed, in-person, physical, spiritual, body and soul future reality.
Bottom Line: The Church is Meant to be Moving toward our Blessed Hope in Body and Soul
Our in-person body and soul gathering as the church of Jesus Christ is important because it is one way to state our faith and hope in Jesus Christ and his coming Kingdom. The Church gathers for worship and fellowship as a preview of the new society in the new creation with Christ as King, even as we scatter during the week and around the world to be on mission.
As John Piper puts it so well, “mission exists because worship doesn’t.” The end game for the Christ-follower as seen in Revelation is to worship God and to be his adoring people. Missions and ministry exist on this side of eternity, therefore, to raise up more worshipers.
It’s important to catch the importance of “body and soul.” We are to be on mission in body and soul to bear the fruit of more people who worship our God in body and soul. What good is a church building full of warm bodies if their cold hearts are far from God? Conversely, does the hypothetical notion of switching to 100% online church post-pandemic sit well with you? Do you see? Christ took our place on the cross body and soul to redeem us in body and soul.
Another way to think about today’s topic is through the lens of affections. Do we have a fervent longing in our souls for Christ and his new creation? Do we have a warm affection to be Christ’s beloved Church, longing to gather and dwell with him in body and soul?
From that perspective, the pandemic and all its side effects (our fear of death, government restrictions, online/virtual worship, etc.) have assaulted our identity and practices.
Of course, the conversation is nuanced. We don’t want to be the spreaders of disease and death. Jesus came to reverse the curse, not spread it! But we must think comprehensively about our life and identity as the church during these times (incidentally, this is why there are multiple installments to this pastoral letter series; navigating the pandemic is not a simple matter).
Let’s Look into the Spiritual Mirror
We leave you with a few self-reflective questions:
- Does a vivid picture of our hope as Christ’s Church shape my faith and my affections? Is a robust eschatology a part of my holistic faith?
- Do I have an intentional and discerning Christian conscience when our identity as a Church is challenged? Or do I have a passive social conscience that just goes along with the status quo and dictums of society (the government, health officials, neighbours, friends, family, etc.)?
- Do I have a healthy sadness, a healthy lamenting based on my blessed hope over the fact that we cannot gather in-person, in body and soul, to worship and fellowship as Christ’s Church?
Think and pray through these questions. Reach out to the elders if you have questions or desire to learn more about our blessed hope and how it informs our present life as Christ-followers. May you come to clear convictions and the courage to act on your faith by grace.
On that note, Trinity Grace, we leave you with Paul’s words of affection and benediction for the church in Ephesus as our own for you:
“Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
Albert, Colin, Trevor
Video Letter: https://youtu.be/p7UOrQoUSDY
Eventbrite Sunday Worship Registration: www.eventbrite.ca/o/trinity-grace-church-14732400937